Zero Tolerance Doesn’t Mean Zero in Santa Fe

Once again, the “zero tolerance” policy of the church’s main child protection policy is put the test, and once again church officials get a failing grade.

A priest who is an admitted child sexual abuser – and whom church officials from the Diocese of X have promised to keep away from children and academic settings – was allowed to attend a recent special mass for a new Benedictine monastery in Santa Fe, an event that took place across the street from an elementary school.

It is notable that Milton Walsh has recently been considered to have unknown whereabouts, but happens to surface at an event that could potentially provide access to children. It is also notable Walsh is a personal friend of Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, the prelate who presided over this special event. And it is especially notable that, according to the Dallas Charter, Archbishop Wester is in violation of his “zero tolerance” pledge.

But most of all the situation is disturbing. And what is more disturbing than Walsh’s proximity to children is that this violation of the Dallas charter is waved away by church officials in response. They claim “Walsh doesn’t live there”, that he “won’t be a member of the order again”, as if these statements justify Archbishop Wester’s open flouting of his pledge to protect children. They don’t, and just expose the flippancy with which these men approach the issue of clergy abuse.

This situation is yet another example of why Church officials aren’t taken seriously when they talk about their policies to protect innocents from clergy abuse. Policies are only as good as their enforcement, something that has been all too lax from church officials throughout the abuse crisis. We hope that parishioners and the public in Santa Fe take notice of the lax response in this case and demand from better from their church officials.

And we hope that Archbishop Wester and other prelates in Santa Fe will recommit themselves to the zero in zero tolerance. They can start by restricting the activities of Walsh and other admitted abusive priests and informing the public of where their whereabouts.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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